Cyber crime threats in Northern Ireland remain a constantly changing challenge

CJI Chief Inspector, Jacqui Durkin, has highlighted the complex and evolving threats from cyber crime and the challenges of effectively responding to it across the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.
A Follow-Up Review by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has assessed progress in implementing inspection recommendations made and accepted in 2017 to improve how the criminal justice system deals with cybercrime in Northern Ireland.

Ms Durkin said that in the intervening time, the landscape has changed and there had been a number of developments which were taken into consideration by Inspectors when gathering information and evidence during fieldwork to inform the Follow-Up Review.

“Inspectors found four of the seven recommendations had been achieved or partially achieved, with the remaining three not achieved when they returned six years after the original inspection report was published”, said the Chief Inspector.

“The development of a Strategic Framework for Action on Cyber Crime in 2018 as part of the overall United Kingdom response to cyber crime by the Department of Finance working with the Department for the Economy, the Department of Justice and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (Police Service), and the launch of the new Cyber Security Centre in 2020, to deliver against the Framework with a cross-departmental Cyber Leadership Board is welcomed”, she said.

Ms Durkin also welcomed the role the Police Service Cyber Crime Team played in addressing the wider cyber crime threat across the UK through its input to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, its 2022-23 Fraud and Cybercrime Annual Assessments and its ongoing contribution to the work of the Organised Crime Task Force.

“These are positive steps which are helping to address the threat of cyber crime.  However, as technology and the skills of those perpetrating cyber crimes continues to grow, so must our commitment to ensuring the Police Service is resourced appropriately to effectively respond and that specialist and front-line Police Officers also have access to the necessary technology and training to keep pace with this ever-changing landscape,” she said.

A lack of progress on the strategic recommendation meant better statistical analysis and management information was still needed in 2023 to support demand modelling to meet match resources to future needs. While the development of Cyber Support Units within the Police Service were positive, backlogs in mobile phone analysis remained an issue and had a knock-on impact on case delay at Court.

“It is our view that the Police Service should continue to review how services and resource capability are strategically organised, their technology keeps pace with developments and engagement with partners is further developed to effectively prevent and assist the investigation of cyber crime in Northern Ireland, said the Chief Inspector.

Ms Durkin said that CJI would likely return to carry out a further full inspection of cyber crime as part of a future Inspection Programme.